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Goethe's 'The Bride of Corinth' - whose poem?

Gothic Literature

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1alaudacorax
Edited: Aug 17, 2012, 3:21am Top

I want to recommend a tremendous poem and air a recurring perplexity of mine.

I find works in translation very confusing - I'm never really sure whose work it is that I'm liking or disliking. This was first brought home to me with my The Collected Stories of Colette, which uses several translators and where I find most of the stories delightful, except those of one or two of the translators, which quite leave me cold. Now, if I blame my indifference to the latter stories on the translators rather than Colette, how can I praise Colette rather than the translators for those I really like? I've never been able to figure out this to my satisfaction.

Quite early on in my adventures with this group I became aware of 'The Bride of Corinth' and its reputation as 'the first vampire poem' and hunted it up online. Was not impressed - thought it pretty poor stuff. It struck me as little better than doggerel - "Dum-da dum-da dum-da dum-da dum". I found it hard work to get through.

Time passed and I bought The Longman Anthology of Gothic Verse. Reading through this, I automatically skipped 'The Bride of Corinth' when I came to it. However, picking up the book recently, I looked at the poem again - can't remember why - and was almost instantly captivated!

It turns out that there are two translations (that I could find), one from 1859 by William Edmondstoune Aytoun and Theodore Martin, and one from 1853 by Edgar Alfred Bowring. Just to make it awkward, the people who post these texts online rarely credit the translators; however, the Aytoun and Martin starts, "A youth to Corinth, while the city slumber'd ...", while the Bowring starts, "Once a stranger youth to Corinth came ..." [ETA - Spoiler alert - I strongly advise googling the first line(s) and finding and reading the poem(s) before reading the ensuing posts.]

Unfortunately, I'd first come across the Bowring translation, which is the first one to crop up in a cursory google, plus, Bowring's translation of Goethe's poems is the only one offered by Project Gutenberg. The one which captivated me, in the Longman Anthology, is the Aytoun and Martin.

If you want to read the Bowring, good luck to you, but I want to recommend the Aytoun and Martin. I think it's enthralling, moving, powerful, a bit erotic, perhaps provocative still, after all these years, and generally worth recommending to anyone who's liked any of the well-known, 'Gothic' poems. It also bridges the space between folk-tale and Gothic in a quite fascinating way (actually, I find it thought-provoking in numerous ways) .

You'll have gathered by now that I like it.

But ... whose poem is it? Does it matter? I have no answer to either question.

2jcbrunner
Aug 14, 2012, 3:13pm Top

Aytoun and Martin aren't faithful to what Goethe actually wrote. The marked lines (--) are nowhere in the original:

A youth to Corinth, -- whilst the city slumber'd, --
Came from Athens: though a stranger there,
-- Soon among its townsmen to be number'd, --
-- For a bride awaits him, young and fair: --
From their childhood's years
They were plighted feres,
So contracted by their parents' care.

Bowring is much closer to the text but takes many liberties as well:

Once a stranger youth to Corinth came,
Who in Athens lived, but hoped that he
From a certain townsman there might claim,
As his father's friend, kind courtesy.
Son and daughter, they
Had been wont to say
Should thereafter bride and bridegroom be.

Goethe's language actually isn't very dignified or elegant. With this Tim Burton treatment, he is mostly mocking Schiller who published his famous ballad Die Kraniche des Ibykus (also situated close to Corinth) in the same year. Goethe's poem is all but unknown today in Germany.

My attempt at a fairly literal translation of the beginning:

To Corinth, a youth from Athens came.
Not knowing anybody there, from one citizen,
his father's friend, he hoped for hospitality.
Long ago promised in marriage were
daughter and son, bride and groom to be.

3housefulofpaper
Aug 14, 2012, 6:47pm Top

I didn't know this poem. I've looked online and just read the Bowring translation. It's pretty ... fustian might be the word. I'll look out for the Aytoun and Martin.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

4alaudacorax
Edited: Aug 15, 2012, 5:29am Top

#2 - Fascinating post, J-C.

One minor detail that had me pondering a little was that line of A & M's - -- Soon among its townsmen to be number'd, -- - because it seemed to clash a little with the boy's later words about taking her back 'to my father's mansion', which seemed the more conventional procedure. It makes sense that those words shouldn't be there.

Can you tell us what Goethe actually says in the fourth verse, where A & M have the boy lay down 'still undress'd', while Bowring has him 'still dress'd'? The A & M, by implication, adds a quite modern erotic charge to the lines from the sixth verse's 'And I now am cover'd o'er with shame!' onwards; while the Bowring's 'shame' appears much more Victorian-conventional, an unmarried girl's reaction to accidentally finding herself in a young man's bedroom. The Bowring actually seems to make more sense; but the A & M makes for a much more ... gripping(?) poem.

Of course, all this just puts even more emphasis on my question of 'whose poem?'

When I wrote about a 'modern erotic charge', this perceived eroticism in the A & M insecapably connected it in my mind to the British 'Hammer horror' films of the `60s and `70s, where the producers invariably chucked in the odd scene made as titillating as they could get away with: which in turn, of course, had antecendents in 19thC Gothic ('Carmilla', anyone?). At the same time, the poem clearly links to those old folk-songs and folk-tales about dead lovers who come back from the grave. In a sense, I'm enjoying the poem while really not knowing where to put it.

#2 - Goethe's language actually isn't very dignified or elegant. With this Tim Burton treatment, he is mostly mocking Schiller who published his famous ballad Die Kraniche des Ibykus (also situated close to Corinth) in the same year.
Which begs the question of whether A & M and Bowring's target audience would have known that. If they wouldn't have, the poems are even more distanced from Goethe's. And even more so if the translators were expecting their audience to not know it.

5jcbrunner
Aug 16, 2012, 6:51pm Top

Spoiler alert. The twist is what makes the poem enjoyable. Thus, google the two first lines Alaudacorax quoted and read the poem first.

Answering the easy question: "Müdigkeit läßt Speis' und Trank vergessen, daß er angekleidet sich aufs Bette legt" The youth is so tired that he neither wants to eat nor drink, too tired to undress before he lies down on the bed. I think A & M's German was only cursory, as mixing up "angekleidet" (dressed) and "unbekleidet" (undressed) is an unusual mistake. Having him dressed allows the later interaction to take place. If he were lying in his naked glory on the bed, any girl would be required to look away and retreat stante pede.

Her first impression is to be startled ("erschrickt") which turns into surprise/astonishment ("Erstaunen"), covered by her hand. Then she feels self-pity ("so fremd im Hause") and angry about her parents keeping her ignorant about visitors ("so hält man mich"). Finally, she realizes the social implication of being alone in a room with a man. "Und nun überfällt mich hier die Scham." She is attacked/overwhelmed by shame. The cold shower aspect is well translated but still turned into a passive form in "And I now am cover'd o'er with shame!" B's translation transforms the moral into a personal ("my") shame, which as we learn later on isn't the case, and by adding the intermediary of feeling removes the shame's direct impact: "To me Well nigh feel I vanquish'd by my shame." In sum, a very well described cascade of emotions.

This mirrors the typically Goethean constellation of Gretchen and Faust. The famous Gretchenfrage (Gretchen's question) Wie hast Du's mit der Religion? (Now tell me, how do you take religion?) confronts a doubting/immoral man/scholar with a at the same time earthy sexual, naive and Christian woman. Goethe was engaged in just such a relationship with Christiane Vulpius which only the shock of Napoleon's invasion turned into a legitimate marriage.

Quoting from the Goethe Handbuch 1916 (the current one is locked away by copyright): "The Bride of Corinth. The ballad has been written from 4th to 5th of June 1797 and published quickly in Schiller's Musenalmanach of 1798. Its theme goes back to the second century AD (Phlegon of Tralles), excerpted in a 1668 book. There the youth is informed in the morning by the mother that he had embraced a dead girl the night before. When the girl returns the next night, the youth calls the parents which makes her collapse dead again. A fortuneteller advises them to feed her body to wild animals. The youth soon dies as well. - It is Goethe who introduces the contrast of ancient sensuality and Christian asceticism. It is also Goethe who first explains the youth's death by vampirism."

(Sidenote: Phlegon of Tralles is an important witness to a mistake in the New Testament. The solar eclipse of 29 AD he mentions was conveniently moved to Christ's cruxification for dramatic purposes, which puts a stake in all literal interpretations.)

More (and more competent) information about the ballad with a vampire focus you can feed into Google Translate: Die Braut von Korinth. Personally, I think the restriction to vampirism cuts off the link to classic impossible love myths from Orpheus onwards.

6HabsburgEmpress
Sep 22, 2012, 10:59am Top

Here is a new translation of Goethe's "The Bride of Corinth."

http://www.ellinanderson.com/TheBrideOfCorinth.html

7jcbrunner
Sep 23, 2012, 11:09am Top

Thanks. The new translation still adds and distracts from what Goethe actually has written, e.g. she notes "He sought his jovial host" which just isn't the case (see my literal translation in my first post) and secondly "jovial" is the wrong term as it is derived from Iovis = Jupiter, as belonging to Jupiter. The host, however, in contrast to his pagan guest, is Christian, the opposite of belonging to Jupiter.

Secondly, her language does not match Goethe's. Translating elegant German into English is extremely difficult, as English is such an imprecise, cloudy language (ideal for marketing slogans, though). Elegant German reads like the chiseled words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It is impossible to omit a single word. German does not share the English love for its short words of English origin (in contrast to French loan words), thus the common Hemingwayification of Kafka doesn't do justice to Kafka's original elegance. In the case of Goethe, one might see this in the translation of the following lines:

Aber wird er auch willkommen scheinen,
Wenn er teuer nicht die Gunst erkauft?
Er ist noch ein Heide mit den Seinen,
Und sie sind schon Christen und getauft.
Keimt ein Glaube neu,
Wird oft Lieb' und Treu
Wie ein böses Unkraut ausgerauft.

Yet would he still be welcome, where
That’s but won with a costly deed?
He, like his own, is still pagan — their
Baptized faith is the Christian creed.
When belief buds anew,
What’s beloved and true
Is often ripped out like some evil weed.

A. teuer erkauft - dearly bought, clearly playing upon the double meaning of "teuer/dear". "Costly" and "won" are misused in this place. The best solution would probably make use of "gain" (which has the same root as "Gunst")

B. Goethe places multiple substantives in opposition (Heide - Christen; Glaube - Unkraut, combined with a chiasm of love and faith/truth. She unnecessarily mixes synonyms (faith, creed, belief), whereas Goethe uses but one word that fits. She also loses Goethe's harsh sequence of verbs - bought, baptized, eradicated. "Böses Unkraut" is a pleonasm that might have been better rendered as "bad weeds".

Bowring - probably the closest to the original here, although he switches and adds too:
But can he that boon so highly prized,
Save tis dearly bought, now hope to get?
They are Christians and have been baptized,
He and all of his are heathens yet.
For a newborn creed,
Like some loathsome weed,
Love and truth to root out oft will threat.

Aytoun and Martin - they switch from the plant metaphor to a body one:
But may not his welcome there be hinder'd?
Dearly must he buy it, would he speed.
He is still a heathen with his kindred,
She and hers wash'd in the Christian creed.
When new faiths are born,
Love and troth are torn
Rudely from the heart, howe'er it bleed.

8HabsburgEmpress
Sep 23, 2012, 1:16pm Top

Herr Brunner wrote:

"Thanks. The new translation still adds and distracts from what Goethe actually has written, e.g. she notes "He sought his jovial host" which just isn't the case (see my literal translation in my first post) and secondly "jovial" is the wrong term as it is derived from Iovis = Jupiter, as belonging to Jupiter. The host, however, in contrast to his pagan guest, is Christian, the opposite of belonging to Jupiter."

Don't you think Ellin Anderson knew that? Haven't you ever heard of irony?

The problem with the above translations (Bowring; Aytoun and Martin) is that they are translations: not poems. They have been squeezed into rhyme and meter, like a crippled leg forced into a brace. They are utterly unreadable, and completely bad. In fact, as may not be apparent to someone who is not a native English speaker: They stink like month-old Bratwurst. The English is as convoluted as a pretzel. Herr Brunner has every right to defend his language, but goodness gracious me: Should Goethe's work not survive outside Germany and Austria? No one in America reads Goethe's poetry; no one quotes it; no one would even know about the most famous of the poems, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," if it wasn't for Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. The horrendous extant translations are entirely to blame. (I've just noticed, as Herr Brunner should perhaps have taken into consideration, that Ellin Anderson's rendition linked above is identified as an "English version" of the poem, not an "English translation.")

You wrote:

"My attempt at a fairly literal translation of the beginning:

To Corinth, a youth from Athens came.
Not knowing anybody there, from one citizen,
his father's friend, he hoped for hospitality.
Long ago promised in marriage were
daughter and son, bride and groom to be."

I'm sure it's fairly literal, as you say. The problem is that it isn't a poem, and that the second line doesn't make any sense. Can you turn it into a poem, with proper English diction, so that it makes sense -- all within the framework of rhyme and meter?

If YOU can't do it, does that mean no one else should try?

And in defense of my own language: The nuances and beauty of English make it not only ideal for poetry, but as the worldwide language of diplomacy (not to mention, the universal language of science publishing. Still say it's imprecise?). And you know that guy, Shakespeare? The one whose verse plays are still made into major motion pictures, year after year. Speaking of marketing.

http://www.ellinanderson.com/TheSorcerersApprentice.html

http://www.ellinanderson.com/TheLittleHeathRose.html

http://www.ellinanderson.com/SongfortheHarp.html

http://www.ellinanderson.com/TheSpinner.html

http://www.ellinanderson.com/Found.html

By the way: Lincoln's Gettysburg address is prose, not poetry: a very nasty piece of prose, by a very nasty man. What you did is called "comparing apples and oranges."

by The Empress (of direct marketing)

P.S. I've had my say, and this will be my last post.

9jcbrunner
Sep 23, 2012, 2:49pm Top

Well, I am sorry if I have inadvertently placed a pea under the princess' mattress. There is irony and there is Alanis. Your first example, to me, if I may, belongs into the second category. I sincerely hope that your calling the author of "with malice toward none, with charity for all" a "nasty man" is an attempt at actual irony.

The Gettysburg Address is indeed written in prose. Both in imagery, sentiment and cadence, it strikes me as a majestic poem too. Poetry doesn't have to rhyme: "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." If you think this is not poetic and nasty then we just have to disagree on that.

Every translation means fitting the original into Procrustes' bed, posing difficult choices. Some choices are clearly superior to others. Ellin Anderson has the poetic liberty to choose "necromancer" for "Hexenmeister", even if there are more fitting English words such as warlock, wizard or sorcerer. A necromancer communicates with the dead, whereas a "Hexenmeister" (master of witches) has a slightly different job description.

Translation, version, variation. It is my idea that they should be true to the original, as faithful as possible, only as different as necessary to capture a new audience. Ideally, modern translations should be prepared by a paired team of native speakers. Nabokov agonized over how to translate both Pushkin's content and style into a foreign language. As you justly note, the disneyfication of the imagery of the Sorcerer's Apprentice was easier than creating a translation as they were free to deviate from the original.

Finally, languages are communication tools. Some languages are better at expressing certain concepts (cf. different words for snow). English is wonderful at expressing big, cloudy ideas in simple words (Change! Enjoy! Just do it!), whereas German manages to condense a lot of meaning into one or two words (Schadenfreude, Donaudampfschiffkapitän). It is unlikely that Bill Clinton could have got away with his reflection about the meaning of "is" in German.

PS Your food choices of bratwurst and pretzel are Bavarian which fit neither the Frankfurter Goethe nor me as a Swiss. The Swiss sausage of choice is called a cervelat and best eaten with a crunchy bread roll called "Bürli".

10BarkingMatt
Edited: Sep 23, 2012, 3:50pm Top

Who's this Gettysburg and what's his address? (Sorry, getting flippant).

I have to agree with jcbrunner though. You simply can't blame any translation on the original author. Translations, of any kind, can only approximate the original text - at best. Always get the original if you can understand it. So the answer to the original question is: both Goethe and his translator if you read it in translation. (But that should be obvious - it goes for all translations).

But (> jcbrunner) don't take it too hard. Remember that line of, I believe, Orson Welles in "The third man"?: "All the Swiss contributed were cuckoo clocks" - something like that anyway. Never mind that those clocks were in fact made in Germany, and never mind Holbein, and Fuseli, and Böcklin, and Le Corbusier (etc). Sometimes, in blissful arrogance, they simply haven't got a clue.

p.s. re sausage: Here in Holland we know it as cervelaat - somewhat like salami, but not quite. Love it - well, as far as I'll eat meat in the first place.

11jcbrunner
Sep 23, 2012, 4:23pm Top

Salami is a hard cured sausage whereas Cervelat are soft. The European Union is causing panic in Switzerland because it wants to prohibit the intestine casings used in making the sausage (which are now mostly imported from South America), as there is a tiny risk of infection if you eat uncooked improperly prepared Cervelats.

Orson Welles' add-lib in the genial Third Man is wrong in both of its part. Switzerland used to have a tough military reputation. Swiss mercenaries (such as the French King's Cent Suisses or the Swiss Pontifical Guard) were known to die hard. The 200th anniversary of the last stand of the Swiss at the Beresina during the 1812 Russia campaign is upcoming. The generals of the American Civil War followed the military concepts developed by the Swiss military thinker Jomini. "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist Swiss."

I don't think that Holbein was Swiss, though. Leonhard Euler, I believe, would be the most influential Swiss thinker or Jean-Jacques Rousseau if you are more romantically inclined. Many people are Swiss by stealth such as Le Corbusier, a certain patent clerk in Berne or more recently even Michelle Bachmann. The latest misuse of stereotypes was the funny Romney Girl (taken down by humorless Universal Music Group, as it was based on a Danish pop song). The conservative Swiss Taliban would never have approved of a revealing Austrian dirndl. Naturally, the video also features cuckoo clocks ... Overall, the stereotypes about Switzerland are a rather easy burden to bear. By the way, I am looking forward to visiting the new exposition Kapital - Merchants of Venice and Amsterdam in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich at the end of next month.

12BarkingMatt
Edited: Sep 23, 2012, 4:46pm Top

Holbein was from Basel (well, okay, not originally, but still). Anyway, yes, one shouldn't be too bothered about stereotypes. I love Asterix chez les Helvetes - yes, also prominently featuring cuckoo clocks - and am truly sorry that comic never touched on my country.

Expo sounds interesting.

p.s. Interesting: "cervelaat" is hard cured as well. I guess it's less like cervelat than the name suggests then.

p.p.s.: as for the Swiss having a tough military reputation - I know. You guys threw the Habsburgs out even earlier than we did. And the Vatican Swiss guard, though mostly symbolic nowadays, is really a relic of Swiss mercenary forces common in renaissance Italy (and beyond).

13AlfredWelsh
Sep 23, 2012, 5:42pm Top

jcbrunner writes:

“Thanks. The new translation still adds and distracts from what Goethe actually has written, e.g. she notes "He sought his jovial host" which just isn't the case (see my literal translation in my first post) and secondly "jovial" is the wrong term as it is derived from Iovis = Jupiter, as belonging to Jupiter. The host, however, in contrast to his pagan guest, is Christian, the opposite of belonging to Jupiter.”

What is meant by "adds from what Goethe has written"?

“jovial” has a range of connotations, from jolly, funny, risible, etc., all the way to convivial, hospitable, gregarious, etc. If the groom is wondering whether he will be welcomed, it is obviously the latter meanings that are most applicable. The fact that Jupiter is not known for a sense of humor, pretty much disconnects the word jovial from any associations with Greek mythology, in anything other than an etymological context. And so I find it pretty farfetched to say that Miss Anderson’s usage of the term will be seen by English readers as being incompatible with the hosts’ Christianity.

He also writes: “She unnecessarily mixes synonyms (faith, creed, belief), whereas Goethe uses but one word that fits.”

Actually Goethe is redundant, where Anderson avoids monotonous reuse of words. If they are Christians, it is unnecessary for Goethe to say they are “getauft” baptized/christened. The fact is, he needs a word that rhymes with “erkauft”. Likewise, Anderson needs a word to rhyme with “deed”, and thus she employs the tautological phrase “Christian creed”.

And so it appears that a standard of judgment is being used that is both inconsistent, and more applicable to a prose translation than to a poetic rendition.

To deviate from the topic (as you have previously done, from Goethe to sausages to Lincoln and his evil act of emancipation, his neat prose notwithstanding): You Swiss threw out the Habsburgs in favor of the Rothschilds. And that would have included the beautiful Empress Elisabeth, stabbed to death, no doubt, by order of the latter. I know who I'd rather look at....

This is my last post as well.

14alaudacorax
Sep 24, 2012, 7:04am Top

#8, #13 - You both seem to have taken umbrage at jcb's post and I really don't see why. As far as I can see, he didn't express an opinion on the Ellin Anderson translation as a poem and was merely continuing a theme from his earlier posts of explaining how the English used matches the original German - personally, having no German, I find it quite absorbing.

Why write about 'last posts' and storm off in a huff? This is what we do, here - discuss various texts, going into them in greater or lesser depth. You both made points that would have just as well added to the discussion without the venom. Why not stay and fight your corner(s)?

Okay, that was me wearing my 'ageing male ingénue' hat. I might have written wearing my 'nasty old cynic' hat but, if HabsburgEmpress is not Ellin Anderson and AlfredWelsh is not personally connected with Ms Anderson, then I'd have had egg on my face, wouldn't I?

15BarkingMatt
Sep 24, 2012, 8:31am Top

I don't get the reason for getting all exited about this either. Except maybe for my remark that both the Swiss and the Dutch got rid of Habsburg rule (at some point in our histories), while one of the people posting here calls herself HabsburgEmpress. That was merely me being unthinking really, and not intended as a snipe.

So jcbrunner has some critique on a translation. What about it? Being a native German speaker he isn't the target audience anyway. And I'm sure he's fully aware translating poetry is a difficult task.

Also I don't think anybody was suggesting English wouldn't be suitable for poetry.

16BarkingMatt
Sep 24, 2012, 8:38am Top

> 13 deviation: What on earth makes you think the Rotschild family was behind the murder on Empress Elizabeth? Do you think it's likely that an Italian anarchist would take orders from members of a wealthy banking family?

(Also I fail to see why the Rotschild family would be any worse than the Fugger family, so beloved by the Habsburgs.)

17jcbrunner
Sep 24, 2012, 11:18am Top

In my view the poster volunteered Anderson's translation after the joyous discovery of a topic on a website unknown to her/him discussing a rather obscure work and never expected to see it inserted into an analytical "meat-grinder". The clumsy sock puppet's "last post" failed to recognize that it is difficult to extract something out of a meat-grinder and did not respect the great Paul Watzlawick's first law of communication: "One cannot not communicate."

>13 AlfredWelsh: You are correct that most modern readers would not catch the original meaning of jovial. In order to help a poet's aspiration to a deeper connection to a word's meaning I flagged it. My intent is to examine, learn and improve, not to chastise.

In Goethe's poem the difference between pagan and Christian is crucial for the plot, as the new faith uproots the old connections. Only a pagan is able to communicate with the dead. Goethe doubles down on the fact that the family is both Christian and baptized. They are committed Christians, zealots like those today that call themselves "reborn". Thus, the family is not happy (jovial) about their guest, similar perhaps to an American ultra-Christian family having to entertain an atheist or Muslim today.

Goethe's singular use of faith ("Glauben") demonstrates the only way to salvation that violently destroys other approaches, therefore "belief" and "creed" with their implicit doubts and alternatives do not work - and are not used in the original.

The advice against the reuse of words or phrases is overrated. There is strength in repetition and variation, beautifully exemplified by the first sentence of the Gospel of John (again prose): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

This is also the sentence or better the Greek word Logos that vexes Goethe's Faust in the famous gothic scholar's study scene (in which a puddle morphs into Mephisto):

Mich drängt's, den Grundtext aufzuschlagen,
Mit redlichem Gefühl einmal
Das heilige Original
In mein geliebtes Deutsch zu übertragen,
Geschrieben steht: »Im Anfang war das Wort!«
Hier stock ich schon! Wer hilft mir weiter fort?
Ich kann das Wort so hoch unmöglich schätzen,
Ich muß es anders übersetzen,
Wenn ich vom Geiste recht erleuchtet bin.
Geschrieben steht: Im Anfang war der Sinn.
Bedenke wohl die erste Zeile,
Daß deine Feder sich nicht übereile!
Ist es der Sinn, der alles wirkt und schafft?
Es sollte stehn: Im Anfang war die Kraft!
Doch, auch indem ich dieses niederschreibe,
Schon warnt mich was, daß ich dabei nicht bleibe.
Mir hilft der Geist! Auf einmal seh ich Rat
Und schreibe getrost: Im Anfang war die Tat!

He concludes with relief: In the beginning was the deed, the spin, the drive - the Big Bang (the prime mover).

I conclude with a Swiss sidebar:

Recent research has shown that it was less the Swiss who kicked out the Habsburgs but an enterprising Count of Habsburg who preferred to make his fortune further East (in Austria), seeking and establishing Dukedom and Kingship there. The Swiss revolted mostly against the economic dead hand of the church (whose monasteries, founded by Irish monks, had kickstarted the economic activities after the Dark Ages but were now in the 13th century no longer competitive). The church, having few divisions of its own, asked the Habsburgs for help against the unruly peasants and citizens but received only limited support. Without any investments, the Habsburgs held on to what later became "Further Austria" as long as possible - but it was always "further away" in their thoughts and interests, and ultimatively lost. The real love lost was always between South Germany and Switzerland (Sauschwaben und Kuhschweizer). Apart from the proselytizing Catholics, there existed little conflict with Austria proper.

In this sense, Switzerland welcomed the Habsburg exiles such as former Emperor Karl and Empress Zita or the unfortunate restless tourist Elisabeth who was murdered by an Italian anarchist who had turned up too late in time for his intended target and killed her instead. Conspiracy theories about this murder make as much sense as those about the death of Lady Diana in Paris. The quite well made musical Elisabeth with its gothic persona of Death has just returned to Vienna.

The Rothschilds famously had subsidiaries in Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris and London. Switzerland was at the margin of their field of operations. Wikipedia informs me about the Swiss Rothschilds: a Basel rabbi and a publisher of a popular Swiss yellow press magazine for middle-aged women. Not exactly the way to world domination ... Controlling the Swiss is like herding cats - a lot of effort for little results. Last weekend, for instance, all of Switzerland was asked to vote on whether to prohibit smoking in all public places and said no to such intrusive, centralized government.

18LolaWalser
Sep 24, 2012, 12:31pm Top

*starring thread*

Goethe, Gothic Goethe, Goethe Goth, nuances of translation, vampires, relative advantages of German and English (poetry; prose; advertising), Swiss-bashing, salami, cervelat, Habsburgian royalists etc.--sometimes LT gives so richly.

Or, at least, you do, J-C. ;)

Must read that poem soonish.

http://www.literaturwelt.com/werke/goethe/brautkorinth.html

From Corinth to Athens a youth hath flown--in the city yet unknown!

19jcbrunner
Oct 7, 2012, 2:05pm Top

Thanks, though I wouldn't call it Swiss-bashing. I love my country, warts and all: "Was sich liebt, das neckt sich" (Lovers tease each other, a German proverb possibly based upon Terence's amantium irae amoris integratio est. The German version is much sweeter - irae calls for much broken crockery. Those hot tempered southerners!).

A curious coincidence seems to be the gender shift from the mostly female vampires in the early 19th century to mostly male vampires today. In another discussion recently about the gender of death (the Wikipedia article is a mess of Borgesian proportions), we couldn't find an Italian personification of death. In German, death is clearly male (Sensenmann, Knochenmann, Gevatter Tod, Bruder Hein, ...) and the imagery is overflowing. English follows its Germanic roots, up to Skeletor. Slavic languages have death as a crone. Romanic languages, I suppose, do not identify death as an independent actor.

Yesterday, during Vienna's marvelous annual Museum Open Night (Lange Nacht der Museen), I also visited the new exposition Sisi auf Korfu which shows, apart from her usual fans, clothes and shoes also her portable alarm clock and her gem collection, conveniently mounted in book-sized containers (The Empress turns 125 years on 24 December). Fascinated with ancient Greece, she had built a neo-hellenistic palace called the Achilleion (tourist video of Sisi's palace Achilleion, filmed by a Dutch couple).

As with Goethe's bride (and Byron too), it is interesting how neo-classical and neo-medieval fandom exist side by side in a general love of things past. "Gothic" as a term does not make much sense in German - it being reserved for the real Goths. The current exhibition in Frankfurt's renovated Städelmuseum calls it Dark Romanticism - Schwarze Romantik (features English subtitles). The exhibtion will, next year, travel on to one of my favorite museums, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The preview video whets my appetite to go see it in one of the two cities.

20alaudacorax
Oct 8, 2012, 8:23am Top

#19 - Romanic languages, I suppose, do not identify death as an independent actor.

Now that's an interesting topic and not one I've ever given any thought to, as I remember.

I can't remember, offhand, ever coming across any personification of death in the classical world. Pluto or Hades rule the underworld but they're not really 'Death'. Even the Fate who cuts the thread doesn't really seem to be depicted as a personification (as far as I can remember - and I don't remember her names, either). Was Thanatos actually Death or did he simply escort the dead, like Charon with his ferryboat?

'He' would have no part in Christian theology, either, and yet, in mediaeval Christendom, there he is, depicted in the Danse Macabre, in religious book illustrations, in church decoration. I'm sure any young kid today would instantly identify a depiction of a skeleton with a cloak and a scythe.

Fascinating subject.

21alaudacorax
Nov 14, 2012, 6:45am Top

If anyone's still interested, I've posted the whole of the Aytoun and Martin translation in 'Post a Ghost Poem' over in the 'Poetry Fool' group.

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